“Dartmouth Review” vs. “Federalist Society” Conservatives Continued

Todd Zywicki at the Volokh Conspiracy responds here to my posting about “Dartmouth Review” vs. “Federalist Society” conservatives. He isn’t as sure as I am that these are genuinely contradictory approaches, but seems to think that conservatives need a combination of the FS’s “conciliatory” approach and the DR-types confrontational, publicity-attracting stunts. He also, interestingly, suggests another approach, which I’ll call the “Benedictine” or “remnant” conservative strategy, which involves designing completely alternative institutions, rather than trying to either attack or slowly work into dominant institutions (like law schools)–Patrick Henry and Ave Maria Universities are examples of this.

I would suggest that while Todd seems to think that the FS&DR approaches might have affinities with one another, the real links are probably between the DR and remnant types. The FS approach assumes that the dominant institutions are at least sufficiently healthy and valuable to be worth (from a conservative approach) reforming. As a result, FS types would want to be very careful about attacking fundamental standards of civility in those institutions, because they would want them to be healthy places once conservatives have established a beachhead there. DR types, by, as the Marxists used to say, “maximizing the contradictions,” may succeed in stripping those institutions of some of their legitimacy or prestige, but at the price of making them less attractive and workable places. This would tend, at the margin, to mainly strengthen the Benedictines, by diffusing energy away from changing dominant institutions (why try to fix them if they’re rotten?) to investing in alternatives.

I should also note that the “FS” and “DR” categories here are ideal types, and like all ideal types, they don’t necessarily map onto every actual FS and DR member.

Author: Steven M. Teles

Steven Teles is a Visiting Fellow at the Yale Center for the Study of American Politics. He is the author of Whose Welfare? AFDC and Elite Politics (University Press of Kansas), and co-editor of Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Public Policy (Cambridge). He is currently completing a book on the evolution of the conservative legal movement, co-editing a book on conservatism and American Political Development, and beginning a project on integrating political analysis into policy analysis. He has also written journal articles and book chapters on international free market think tanks, normative issues in policy analysis, pensions and affirmative action policy in Britain, US-China policy and federalism. He has taught at Brandeis, Boston University, Holy Cross, and Hamilton colleges, and been a research fellow at Harvard, Princeton and the University of London.